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New HPV Vaccine Requirement Needed

2008-09-29 11:51

Some immigrant and women's rights advocacy groups are raising concern about a new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rule that adds the human papillomavirus vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for female immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The rule -- which took effect on July 1 -- requires female immigrants ages 11 to 26 seeking U.S. citizenship to receive the vaccination. The vaccine protects against four types of HPV that are known to cause 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts cases, according to the Morning News. Priscilla Huang, director of the Reproductive Justice Project and a women's law fellow at the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, said many advocacy groups were unaware of the new rule.

CIS also requires vaccines for rotavirus, hepatitis A, meningitis and zoster for both sexes. The vaccine adds about $375 to the $1,410 cost for applying for citizenship, according to the Morning News. Ana Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, said, "What we have noticed is that applying for citizenship decreases as the fees go up," adding, "I don't think it's a coincidence that they're pushing for a policy that would provide a burden on immigrants."

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Jennifer Ng'andu, associate director of health policy at the National Council of La Raza, said, "There are benefits to the vaccine, and we're not trying to downplay them, but this vaccine is not accompanied by education, and they're only going to be requiring this for one group of people. It's outrageous." Some women's rights groups also have called the vaccine mandate discriminatory because it is the only CIS vaccine requirement for a sexually transmitted infection and the only one that is gender-specific, the Morning News reports.

Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, a spokesperson for CIS, defended the rule, noting that medical examinations and inoculations always have been a requirement for obtaining U.S. citizenship. Garcia-Upson added, "I think the public would agree that people who are coming into this country to adjust their status, if they have a contagious disease, we don't want that disease to be spread around." Dale Morse of CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices -- which recommends the vaccine for women in general -- said, "ACIP makes vaccine recommendations based on scientific information using criteria such as burden of disease, efficacy, safety and cost effectiveness," adding, "However, ACIP does not mandate the use of vaccines" (Longoria, Dallas Morning News, 9/28).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.